The Abernathy Arts Center’s plan to serve as a showcase for Georgia artists bears fruit in a lively exhibition featuring 50 artists in its sunlit gallery. Juried by ceramist Rick Berman and printmaker Stephanie Smith, the show encompasses work in a variety of media.
One of the purposes of juried exhibitions is to give unknown artists a foot in the door. Seth Long Keaveny, a designer who established his own business just last month, got more than a foot. He walked off with grand prize, awarded by High Museum curator Michael Rooks, for “Modern Susan,” a handsome table made of laminated plywood whose glass top revolves courtesy of several sets of what looks to be skateboard wheels.
The exhibition introduced me to Melanie Ferguson’s ceramics. The two pots are reminiscent of the ancient vessels you’d find displayed in an archaeological museum. Nubs cling to one like barnacles; one can imagine fishing it out of the Mediterranean. Barely discernible figures and glyphs glimmer like cave paintings on the black surface of the other.
New to the scene are recent and promising Masters of Fine Arts Margaret Hiden and Rachel Speed, who exhibit photographic work, and getting more notice is Seanna Reilly, a former architect who now dematerializes things in her poetic graphite pieces.
I’m intrigued by Curtis Ames’ comedies of middle-class manners. The two paintings here are executed in a vaguely naif realist style, verging on the surreal in "The Raft of Las Piscininas,” a scene at a neighborhood pool in which a Hispanic woman in a 1950s-style maid’s uniform pours coffee in the midst of bathers, who stare as if they were Stepford husbands and wives.
Ames’ “Eat Me,” which depicts an enraptured young woman in a trendy, West Elm-modern interior, is one of a number of works dealing with ideas of home.
Themes are rare occurrences in open-call shows such as this. Kudos to Lauren Bernazza, the center’s program director, for discerning a common thread and sharing it with the viewer in a grouping that also includes Hiden’s layered memory pieces, Chris Condon’s sculpture “Nest,” and Dayna Thacker’s mixed-media work, “Implied Agreement by Tenant.”
Thacker broadens the theme in that the houses in her pieces -- made with crisply-cut sections of old newspapers, contracts, books, music sheets and so forth collaged onto paintings -- are metaphoric containers for the psyche.
You also could include Kathy Yancey’s “Homage to Pierre Bonnard,” a 21st-century rendering of the 19th-century French artist’s visions of domesticity. She is one of a group of seasoned artists whose works round out the show. Standouts include Lisa Tuttle’s dreamy mixed-media pieces and Kevin Cole’s “Dance With a Boogaloo Bear,” a woodcut collage of fluid looping forms, rich color and dense pattern that took first place.
Catherine Fox is chief visual arts critic of ArtsCriticATL.com.
Georgia Artists: A Juried Exhibit.” Through June 24. Abernathy Arts Center, 254 Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Springs. 404-613-6172, www.fultonarts.org.
Bottom line: A lively exhibition of newcomers and seasoned pros.